Greece and Croatia complete the job to reach World Cup finals

Ten-man Croats finish off Iceland while Greeks draw in Romania

Mario Mandzukic of Croatia celebrates with team-mate Luka Modric  after the  World Cup Qualifier play-off second leg match between Croatia and Iceland at Maksimir Stadium  in Zagreb, Croatia. Photograph: Alex Grimm/Getty Images

Mario Mandzukic of Croatia celebrates with team-mate Luka Modric after the World Cup Qualifier play-off second leg match between Croatia and Iceland at Maksimir Stadium in Zagreb, Croatia. Photograph: Alex Grimm/Getty Images

Tue, Nov 19, 2013, 21:51

Croatia reached next year’s World Cup finals after goals from striker Mario Mandzukic and captain Darijo Srna secured a 2-0 aggregate win over Iceland following an action-packed return leg of their play-off .

Mandzukic opened the scoring with a clinical goal in the 27th minute but was sent off for a vicious foul on Johann Gudmundsson shortly before halftime.

But the home side were unfazed by being a man down and Srna added the second goal straight after the break, rifling in a stinging low shot from 15 metres as he cut in on the right flank after a darting run and pinpoint delivery by midfielder Mateo Kovacic.

Kovacic missed a clear-cut chance when Iceland keeper Hannes Halldorsson turned his low shot around the post and Ivica Olic crashed a spectacular overhead kick against the crossbar as Croatia hit top gear to end Iceland’s hopes of qualifying for their first major tournament.
Greece qualified for a second successive World Cup after another Kostas Mitroglou goal secured a 1-1 draw with Romania in the second leg of their playoff and a 4-2 victory on aggregate.

Mitroglou, who scored twice in Greece’s 3-1 first-leg win, beat the offside trap midway through the first half and gave ’keeper Ciprian Tatarusanu no chance with his 22nd goal in all competitions this season.

Romania equalised 10 minutes after the break when Vasilis Torosidis struck the ball past his own goalkeeper, Orestis Karnezis, from the edge of the area for an astonishing own goal.

Greece, the 2004 European champions, competed in the previous World Cup finals, in South Africa in 2010, as well as the 1994 tournament in the United States, but they have failed to get past the first round, losing five of their six matches.

More than 50,000 Romanian fans created an intimidating atmosphere for the visiting players but the home side looked bereft of ideas throughout.